JONESBORO, Ark. (www.astate.edu) — Arkansas State University's sixth-ranked rugby squad has been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while as the Red Wolves will host No. 2 Life University, Saturday, April 5, at 1 p.m. at the A-State Rugby Field. The last time the two teams met on March 1, Life handed A-State a crushing 34-7 loss on the road.
But this time is different as this is the final regular season home match for seven Red Wolf seniors, and the entire team is ready to accept the challenge from the Running Eagles. Both teams are battling for successful finishes in the Mid-South Conference as the playoffs loom ahead.
Play gets underway at 10:30 a.m. with two high schools, Germantown in Memphis and Soulsville in Nashville, squaring off. The Arkansas State junior varsity team will play an A-State alumni team at noon in a 10 aside game with 20-minute halves, followed by the varsity squads from Arkansas State and Life starting at 1 p.m.
"We are expecting this to be a tough encounter, as usual," said first-year head coach NeMani Delaibatiki. "It's always been a battle between the two schools since they started competing against each other a couple of years ago. We did not play well against Life the last time we played them in Atlanta on March 1, but we are looking at changing that this time around, and the guys know what's at stake this weekend."
Seven seniors will make their final regular season home appearance before playoffs begin, including Dylan Carrion of Plano, Texas; Cody Crawford of St. Charles, Mo.; Jake Mizell of Keller, Texas; Shaun Potgieter of Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Paul Steyn Benade of Hermauns, South Africa; Tito Chitanda of Capetown, South Africa; Sean Paterson of Capetown, South Africa. A-State's regular season closes Saturday, April 12, versus Lindenwood in St. Louis.
Also, despite injuries to some key players, Delaibatiki says his squad "will have to accept the change and learn to deal with the situation. Guys that have taken over their positions are keen to take on the challenge to prove themselves in those respective spots. I believe in our guys who have taken over their positions, and I know they will do a great job there this weekend."
Delaibatiki has had time to reflect on his team's progress this season.
"Progress can be judged on a few things such as wins and improvement in statistics of each player based on performance. But for me it's about this group of young men learning to play well together as a team and getting better every week and I think we are achieving that," he said.
"They are slowly getting used to the new system we are using this season, and given time and experience, we should be able to fully execute effectively the type of game we want to play. But so far I am happy with the progress and where we are heading. Onwards and upwards and progressing is how I can explain our progress so far this season."